STATEWIDE — The federal government has pushed back the deadline to file income taxes and will temporarily stop billing people who have federal student loans in an effort to alleviate the financial impact of the coronavirus on Americans. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday morning that Tax Day was moving from April 15 to July 15. 

It means taxpayers and businesses will have extra time to file and make payments, if necessary, without penalties or interest.

However, Mnuchin also reminded people not to use this as a reason to delay filing if you might have a refund.

"I encourage all taxpayers who may have tax refunds to file now to get your money," Mnuchin said.

Charter Communications has temporarily opened its live stream free to the public. You can watch Spectrum News via our live stream on your desktop or laptop without a subscription by visiting our website and clicking “Watch Live” in the upper right. Charter also is temporarily offering free broadband and wifi access for 60 days to families with K-12 or college students. To enroll, call 1-844-488-8395. The company also will open more than half a million wifi hotspots across the country.

DeSantis issues order prohibiting elective medical procedures

Gov. DeSantis followed up his executive order regarding restaurants, food establishments, and gyms on Friday with another executive order, this one covering elective medical procedures.

According to Executive Order 20-72, all hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, office surgery centers, dental, orthodontic and endodontic offices, and other health care practitioners' offices in Florida are prohibited from providing any "medically unnecessary, non-urgent, or non-emergency procedure or surgery which, if delayed, does not place a patient’s immediate health, safety, or well-being at risk, or will, if delayed, not contribute to the worsening of a serious or life-threatening medical condition."

The order lists as examples some endoscopy, most cataract and lens surgeries, non-urgent spine and orthopedic procedures, and cosmetic procedures.

Permissible procedures include but may not be limited to:

  • removal of cancerous tumors
  • transplants
  • limb-threatening vascular surgeries
  • trauma-related procedures, and
  • dental care related to the relief of pain and management of infection

Florida food establishments, gyms ordered closed

Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered all restaurants and food establishments in Florida to suspend dining-in options for customers. According to the order, food businesses can still provide delivery and take-out services. 

The order also mandates that all gyms and fitness centers within the state be closed.

Rep. Melony Bell (R-District 56), who represents Polk County, was one of the legislators who asked the Governor for the closure of gyms and fitness studios in a letter sent Thursday.

“We don’t know who has it, who is the carrier, what they’re touching,” said Bell as she listed reasons for the closure.

She wrote the letter after instructors contacted her concerned that equipment wasn’t being wiped down. 

Bell said Friday she was glad the Governor listened.

“It didn’t take him long to make that decision and I appreciate him responding to not only me but to my constituents of District 56,” said Bell.

Bell added that legislators were working hard to make sure employees of these gyms would be able to get unemployment benefits.

The order doesn’t apply to small gyms inside hotels, gyms inside apartment complexes or inside fire or police stations.

In Orange County, leaders announced a county-wide curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. each day until further notice. Only "essential personnel" will be allowed out at that time, County Mayor Jerry Demings said.

Osceola County officials have also implemented a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning tonight until further notice.

Student loan payments temporarily won't need to be paid

In other efforts to combat the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government is temporarily suspending collection of student loan payments for at least 60 days, President Donald Trump said. He encouraged borrowers to contact their lenders for more details.

Interest on federally-held student loans is also temporarily waived.

For K-12 students, standardized testing will not be enforced.

Feds focus coronavirus fight on southern border, immigration

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. and Mexico were working together to close the southern border to nonessential travel. He and Trump said this would not effect commerce.

This would affect immigration along the souther border, something the president has long tried to reduce. Officials said they're concerned about Customs and Border Patrol's ability to process large numbers of people at the moment.

"CBP facilities were never designed to hold numbers of people, (we're doing this) to protect agents and migrants from infection during a pandemic (so we don't have to) treat them for a novel virus if large numbers of people are infected," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.

Health officials on the task force said the latest border initiatives were being done as a public safety measure.

They are again reminding Americans of all age groups to stay home, practice social distancing, and not gather in large crowds.

NASA Stops Work on Moon Rocket

COVID-19 could impact NASA’s timeline of the next moonshot.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on-site work will be halted beginning Friday at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility and Stennis Space Center. Production and testing of the Space Launch System and Orion hardware will be temporarily suspended.

The Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana and Stennis Space Center in Mississippi are moving to Stage 4 of the NASA Response Framework, which means mandatory telework is in effect. 

The change at Stennis was made because a worker contracted COVID-19, plus others self-isolating, and the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Mississippi community where the facility is located, according to Bridenstine. There are no confirmed cases at Michoud, but there are increased cases in the New Orleans area there.

“We realize there will be impacts to NASA missions,” Bridenstine said, “but as our teams work to analyze the full picture and reduce risks, we understand that our top priority is the health and safety of the NASA workforce.”

The SLS launch had already been pushed back to next year prior to this announcement.

— Rebecca Turco, Spectrum News

Beaches Across the State Closing

County leaders in Florida are starting to make the decision to close all beaches to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

So far Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties have closed all their beaches. The city of Tampa also decided to close its beaches. 

In Brevard County, beach parking lots along the 72 mile coastline have been shutdown. It's part of a coordinated plan to ward off large crowds from gathering. 

The city of Cocoa has closed the Cocoa Beach Pier in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus. 

All of this comes right during spring break, when many people gather at Florida beaches. But that goes against everything health and government officials are urging people to do right now: social distancing. 

Sen. Rick Scott has one clear message for anyone who still wants to head to the beach. 

“Get off the beach. Unless you can figure out how to completely be isolated from anybody else. Individuals have got to take responsibility," Scott said. "Every level of government has got to be very clear: Don’t be on the beach unless you can somehow be completely by yourself.”

Italy’s Virus Epicenter Grapples With Huge Toll

The city of Bergamo is the epicenter of the hardest-hit province of Italy’s hardest-hit region, Lombardy, the site of hundreds of coronavirus deaths. 

According to unofficial figures, more than 600 people infected with the virus have died in the province, which is tucked up against the Italian Alps and accounts for more than a quarter of all deaths in Lombardy, even though it represents only a tenth of the region’s population of 10 million.

“We are confronting the biggest COVID emergency after Wuhan,” said Dr. Luca Lorini, head of intensive care at Bergamo’s main hospital, named for native son Pope John XXIII, where nearly 500 beds are dedicated to people suffering severe symptoms of the virus, 80 of those in intensive care. “The numbers tell us this.”

Provincial mayors are sounding an alarm that the virus-related toll fails to reflect a spike in deaths in the general population among those who have not been tested. Last week alone, 400 people died in Bergamo and 12 neighboring towns — four times the number who died the same week the previous year, according to the Bergamo mayor’s office.

People on the front lines of the virus fight, including hospital officials, funeral operators, city administrators and union leaders, told The Associated Press that Bergamo’s crisis might have been prevented had their individual requests to create a red zone around the area as early as Feb. 23 been heeded.

Information from the Associated Press used with this report.